I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation like this where you were desperate and things were way out of your control. I’ll tell you one that happened for me. I remember a time when I was fishing in Canada with my family – I was probably 13. It was a beautiful day, everything was going well, and a tiny storm cloud rolled up over top of the lake. Around here you wouldn’t think about it. But the guy we were fishing with said we’d better pack and head for shore.
We were quite a ways out from shore yet when the wind started. The waves picked up and we started to realize that our little flat bottom boats weren’t made for this kind of water. My brother and I were in a small boat, my parents and my youngest brother were in a larger boat, and they had the big motor. So they whipped over to us, threw a rope to our boat, and started pulling us to shore. But about 200 yards from shore, with the waves getting bigger all the time, the motor started to sputter. Oil started leaking out the engine, and my brother and I realized, okay, the adventure is over. This is not good. The very thing that is our ticket off of this lake isn’t working!
By the time we had limped to shore, the waves were big enough that as soon as my brother and I got out of our small boat, between the wind and the waves, the boat just flipped right upside down. It was pouring down rain, everything wet. When we finally climbed in the truck, it just felt good to be out of the storm.
I’d love for you to turn to Luke chapter 9 in your copy of Scripture. If it’s on your phone, that’s fine, if you need a Bible there are some on the back table – no one’s going to judge you that you forgot a Bible today, so feel free to hop up and grab one. But if you’re new to the Bible, open to about ⅗ of the way through, and if you see names you don’t know how to pronounce, keep going to the right. When you see names that look more familiar like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, you are in the right spot.
What I experienced as a 13 year old was nothing compared to the storm being faced by a father and his son here in Luke 9, as Lucy read for us a minute ago.
In verse 38 … a man from the crowd cried out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, because he's my only child.  A spirit seizes him; suddenly he shrieks, and it throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; severely bruising him, it scarcely ever leaves him.  I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn't."
My story is nowhere near what this father is feeling where his young son has been living in a demonic storm, being tossed around, not by waves on a lake in Canada, but by some evil force that was actively trying to destroy him. This dad lives in constant fear that one of these times, the demon is going to really hurt his kid. In the gospel of Matthew’s account of this story, he adds that the demon causes seizures, tries to make the kid fall into fire, or even into water to try and drown him.
There’s no shelter to go to, no truck to jump in to get away from this storm. There’s no getting back to the cabin to dry out with a nice hot shower. The evil just goes with him wherever he goes, and rarely leaves him alone.
And worse yet, like the sputtering engine on our boat, the very people who should be able to help him can’t do it. Back in verse 1 of chapter 9, Jesus had given the Twelve disciples authority over demons. They should be able to help this boy. But for some reason, despite the dad’s begging, they just can’t do it.
The disciples were well meaning. They weren’t trying to be hurtful or mean. They were trying everything in their power to help the boy, but they just couldn’t do anything about his situation.
I would guess there are some of you in the room who have been disappointed by or even hurt by well-meaning Christians or churches in your story. You went to a church for help, or you had good friends who were Christians, and when you really needed a friend, they weren’t there. But there are two things we can take note of here:
- When his disciples disappointed people in need instead of helping them, it really bothered Jesus. He didn’t blow it off like it wasn’t a big deal. He was frustrated.  Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and put up with you? "
- But the second thing to take note of is that despite the disciples inability to help the boy, Jesus invited him to come. He is able to do what even the church is unable to do.
Bring your son
Bring your son here.  As the boy was still approaching, the demon knocked him down and threw him into severe convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.  And they (the crowd) were all astonished at the greatness of God.
Jesus shows in an instant what he is like. Not only does he have power over evil, he is a healer and he restores what is broken. Who knows what kinds of injuries this boy carried because of the demon’s physical assault on him. Jesus healed him. For the dad to say this is my only son, is to say everything about my future – my name, my family line, my reputation – it’s all gone if this boy isn’t helped…Jesus restored him to his father.
Chaos has been replaced with peace; fear replaced with gratitude and joy; uncertainty replaced with hope; suffering replaced with wholeness. This boy who was as good as dead to his father, has been given a new lease on life.
Guys... a word?
I just imagine the chatter of the crowd as people are talking and asking each other, did you see that?... And Jesus sort of slips off to the side with his disciples to tell them something.
While everyone was amazed at all the things he was doing, he told his disciples,  "Let these words sink in: The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."
Jesus has reversed the boy's situation, but his own situation is about to be reversed. People are praising him now, but they will soon betray him. Jesus is replacing suffering for wholeness for others, but is saying his own wholeness is soon going to be replaced by suffering.
 But they did not understand this statement; it was concealed from them so that they could not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
The disciples don’t get it.
- A) Who could hate Jesus for all the healing and stuff he was doing?
B) What do you mean betrayed? By whom?
C) If Jesus is the Chosen One, the Savior of the world, how could he be destined for death?
Not making this up
The disciples are lost. So confused. Let me just stop right here and say that this is one of the ways we know we can trust the Bible. Think about this: Luke, who is the author of this book, searched out eyewitnesses and others who took notes on Jesus’ life and ministry, some of which would have been these very disciples themselves, and he says, “tell me some stories about Jesus”, and those stories the disciples told Luke included this one: Well, Jesus gave us power over demons and sicknesses, and yet there we stood like a bunch of idiots, with the power of God in our hands and yet no power at all. And then when Jesus started telling us the plan, we didn’t get it! We couldn’t figure it out, and we were all too embarrassed to ask him about it.
If you are making up a story about Jesus, elaborating on ordinary events, making them more glamorous than they really are; if you are fabricating a tale about something that never happened, why would you make yourself look so pathetic? Why wouldn’t you puff yourself up in your own lie, and say, “yeah, me and the boys went all Will Smith on that demon – kapow!, and I mean, he took off … hehe, it was hilarious… even Jesus was laughing about it…”
Who's the greatest of them all?
One of the reasons we can trust scripture is that people closest to Jesus were honest about their own failings, sins, and unbelief. I mean, check this out – I would not have told Luke this next part either:
 An argument started among [the disciples] about who was the greatest of them. I mean that’s a little embarrassing, isn’t it? Right after Jesus easily throws out a demon that we tried and tried and tried unsuccessfully to throw out, we started arguing about which of us was the best. Wouldn’t you tell Luke that with your head down, like, oh man. We were so dumb.
 But Jesus, knowing their inner thoughts, took a little child (maybe the one he had just healed (Green, 391)) and had him stand next to him.  He told them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me. For whoever is least among you – this one is great."
The patience of Jesus
River City here’s what I want you to see about Jesus – He is so patient. So patient. He is not like your dad might have been, flying off the handle at you, yelling, “ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW!? HOW DARE YOU!?” He’s not like your boss who passive-aggressively makes you feel dumb in front of everyone. He’s not your spouse or close friend who gives you the silent treatment. Instead of berating the disciples, he points to a little child.
In Judaism, children under 12 were too young to be taught the Torah, so spending time with them was considered a waste (Bock, 895), and Jesus kills the whole “I’m better than you” argument by saying, oh, you want to be great? You want to argue about something? See who can get the lowest. Become a servant to everyone else, including the people at the bottom of the social totem pole – as if you were serving Jesus himself.
Again, this should be good news to you if you feel like you’re an outcast at your school, your job, in your neighborhood – Jesus didn’t only hang out with the cool kids. He went straight for the people at the bottom, and showed them that they mattered to him. So do you.
And John right away responds to all of this with, well, Master… … we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us."
In other words, fine, we’ll take care of little kids. Got it. But even if we’re serving kids, our team is still at the top of the totem pole, right? If we see someone who is using your name, but isn’t following us everywhere – We should shut that down, though, right? If they don’t follow you, they shouldn’t use your name, right?
 "Don't stop him," Jesus told him, "because whoever is not against you is for you."
Jesus is helping his disciples and us understand that this thing of following Jesus isn’t like a March Madness bracket, where we’re all ranked from 1-16 in how well we follow him. There is no number one Christians who attend church every week, say the right prayers, give the right amount of money, attend all the Bible studies, and then the number 16 Christians who probably still swear a lot, they sometimes let parties get the best of them and probably shouldn’t drive home – or walk home for that matter.
Oh Mike over here just passed Janelle for the number 4 spot, because she missed her quiet time today, but the next weekend, Mike drank a little too much at the party, so he dropped to number 7. He’s going to have read the book of Leviticus now to get back in the top 5.
No. Jesus throws that out the window.
There are only two teams: You’re either with him or against him. How do you know which one you are? Let’s finish this up, and then I’ll answer that question. (19:36)
 When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem.  He sent messengers ahead of himself, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him.  But they did not welcome him, because he determined to journey to Jerusalem.
One thing you need to know about Jews (like Jesus and his disciples) and Samaritans is that they were like oil and water. It’s a long story how it came to be that way, but the short way to say it is that Samaritans believed they were right about how to worship God and Jews believed they were right. So they would avoid each other as much as possible. It was to the point that if Kalona was Samaria, and we were Jews heading for Wellman from here, we’d take gravel roads to get around Kalona instead of going through it. Verse 53 sort of implies that the Samaritan village might have let Jesus spend the night there, until they found out he was headed to Jerusalem. Then it was a hard “no.”
Yippie Kye Yay...
And now the disciples are frustrated. And again, I would have left this out if I was making up this story.
 When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"
I mean, we couldn’t cast out a demon a second ago, which you gave us power to do Jesus, but now we’re pretty confident that we can blow this place up like DieHard (something you didn’t give us the power to do), and Jesus, all you need to do is give the green light and we’ll get it done.
 But he turned and rebuked them,  and they went to another village.
I want to make a couple of quick observations here, then I’ll tell you how this pertains to the Resurrection.
- The opposite of following Jesus is rejecting Jesus. There is no neutral third team. The Samaritans could have experienced the same kind of healing and wholeness and restoration that the little boy and his father got. But instead, they let tradition and history and social order dictate who could stay in their town and who couldn’t. Jesus doesn't call judgment on them, but he also doesn’t force himself on them. He simply walks away. There is nothing more tragic for a community than to reject Christ, and have him say “Okay.”
- The second thing to notice is that for people on team Jesus, pride and entitlement have no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus. You don’t become great as a follower of Jesus through position and power and enacting judgment on “those sinners”. You don’t become great by being a Master of Theology, or by being able to spot “the bad guys.” You become great by humbling yourself and serving those who can’t return the favor.
- Jesus has empowered his disciples to relieve suffering, not to cause it. We’re called to trust the fire of heaven, judgment and revenge to Jesus. He’ll take care of that part.
Because the reality is we have all refused Jesus. You did this week. I did this week. We’ve all turned away from him. Maybe you know all of Jesus words very, very well – you know what you should and shouldn’t do as a follower of Jesus, and yet you don’t always do it! You know we’re supposed to forgive, but you just can’t forgive that guy or that woman who did or said that one thing that one time. You know you’re supposed to pray for the leaders of our government, but it’s a lot easier to trash them in conversation or on social media than stop and pray for them. You know you’re supposed to pray about everything, being thankful, content, and honest in all of your dealings, and yet you struggle to do any of those things.
The Great Reversal
If anyone deserves fire from heaven, it’s us! It’s me! And yet the very reason Jesus set his mind to go to Jerusalem in verse 51, was to take the fire from heaven on himself! Jesus willingly headed into Jerusalem knowing that he would be betrayed by one of his own, sentenced to death by the perfect theologians of the day, brutally tortured and killed by a Roman form of execution called the cross, because even though we deserve fire from heaven and we fail him left and right, he was eager to show us that God is not against us, he is for us.
Isaiah 53 tells us what happened here, is that Jesus himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains… he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our sins; the punishment that would bring us peace was given to him instead of us, and by his wounds, we are healed. All of us have gone astray, like sheep; we’ve all turned to our own way, wanting to be the Master and Lord of our own lives; and Yahweh, the Lord of heaven and earth, has punished Jesus for our sins.
Like that little boy who had no hope of rescue from the evil inside of him, threatening his life, we had no hope of rescue from the sin that threatened to separate us from God forever. Yet Jesus took our suffering on himself, and replaced it with his own wholeness – giving us the very healing that we needed! How do we know?
The cross worked
Because on the third day God raised Jesus to life again! The check that Jesus wrote for sinners with his own body and his own blood cleared – the resurrection proves that the cross worked!
That’s why Christians get so fired up about Resurrection Sunday! That’s why we say “he is risen!” to each other on Easter Sunday; it’s why we dress up our little kids, it’s why no matter how crappy the rest of your life is going, you show up to Easter Sunday with a smile - because the cross worked!
We don’t get fire from heaven right now – we get a welcome instead! It’s not the day of judgment – it’s the day of grace!
We don’t have to argue about which one of us is great, or who has done enough to be on God’s good side – Jesus is the great one, who welcomed us and served us and ultimately stood in our place, so that we wouldn’t have to be called and unbelieving a perverted generation anymore, but so that we could be called good and faithful servants!
We don’t have to be in competition with other churches in our town or in our country – we are free to cheer them on, and champion them and pray for them because our mission isn’t to be the best - it’s to be the least!
We don’t have to be controlling, trying to make sure all the parts of our lives line up just perfectly, or make sure people do what we want them to do. We can rest that the one who loves us is in control, and the one who will judge all things and crush all evil has everything perfectly in his eternally wise purposes.
We don’t have to live in anxiety or fear of the storms of life, whether they are persecution, economic or political collapse, we don’t have to fear our own death or our kids’ death or our parents’ death; we don’t have to fear the day we stand before God – why? Because the cross worked! We who should be dead are made alive! We who should be crushed for our sins have forgiveness!
Instead of having to shoulder the heavy burden from day to day where I have to be better, do better, live better, pray more, read more, give more to the church when I sin, instead I can just look for Jesus in the pages of his word, repent of my sin, and rest in the knowledge that he forgave me for that sin 2000 years ago on the cross, and because he stood up and walked out of that grave a few days later, I know for certain that my sins are at the bottom of the ocean and no one can hold them over my head anymore.
Better still, we who should have fire from heaven dumped on our heads in judgment now have the fire of the Holy Spirit IN OUR HEARTS instead!
We’re on the right side of history today, not because we belong to the right political or social justice tribe, but because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ortland, 72).
We don’t have to try to put on a face and pretend to be a perfect church, because even though God’s people will probably fail you, and you will fail them, Jesus is able to do exceedingly more abundantly than we could ever ask or think according to his power that is at work within us… to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Band come on up — we need to sing!
Don't refuse this grace
But as they come up here today, listen to me… if you are here today and you have not trusted Christ yet, unfortunately nothing I just said applies to you. Not a single sentence of it. You don’t have the welcome of Jesus currently. You are the Samaritan town who wants to live your own way, for your own glory. Your history, your hurts, your own preferences and desires are king in your life, and even though you may have called yourself a Christian or said you believe, your life revolves around you. Like the little boy was as good as dead in the eyes of his dad, you are spiritually dead in the eyes of your Heavenly Father.
The good news for you today is that today is not the day of judgment. This moment we’re sitting in right now is not the day that fire falls from heaven. That day is coming, but today is the day of grace, the day of salvation! The result of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is that the moment you trust him, the moment you confess that you’ve been living for your own glory and not the glory of God; the moment you believe that Jesus loved you enough to willingly leave his throne in heaven to lift you out of the muck of sin; the moment you ask him for forgiveness, and for his help to do an about-face and start living for HIS glory by HIS strength and grace, the Bible’s promise is clear: The moment you do that, You will be saved; transferred from the kingdom of the enemy into the kingdom of God!
Please don’t be like the Samaritans and refuse him today.
Pray with me…
Bock, Darrell L. 1994. Luke: 1:1–9:50. Vol. 1. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Green, Joel 1997. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co
Ray Ortland, The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021)